Barbara (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 3, 2013 by  


“Barbara” is a film that conveys a sense of desperation of one woman wanting to escape the oppressive GDR but also wanting to maintain that dedication to her patients as a physician.  Featuring a wonderful performance by actress Nina Hoss, “Barbara” is an intelligent, slow-moving film that I definitely recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Adopt Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Barbara


DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9, German with English subtitles, Dolby Digital Stereo

COMPANY: Adopt films

RATED: PG-13 (For Some Sexual Material, Thematic Elements and Smoking)

Release Date: November 12, 2013

Directed by Christian Petzold

Screenplay by Christian Petzold

Produced by Florian Koerner von Gustorf

Executive Producer: Michael Weber

Music by Stefan Will

Cinematography by Hans Fromm

Edited by Bettina Bohler

Casting by Simone Bar

Production Design by Kade Gruber

Costume Design by Anette Guther


Nina Hoss as Barbara

Ronald Zehrfeld as Andre

Rainer Bock as Klaus Schutz

Christina Hecke as Asstenzarztin Schulze

Claudia Geisler as Stationschwester Schlosser

Deniz Petzold as Angelo

Jasna Fritzi Bauer as Stella

Rosa Enskat as Hausmeisterin Bungert

East Germany, 1980. Barbara Wolff is a young doctor who has applied for an exit visa from the GDR and, as punishment, has been transferred from her prestigious post in Berlin to a small pediatric hospital in the country. She must weigh her absolute dedication to her patients against a potential escape to the West, and her newfound attraction to a doctor in whom she sees a kindred spirit.

A doctor must decide what is more important…her freedom or her patients in the award winning 2012 German film “Barbara”.

From award winning director and writer Christian Petzold (“Wolfsburg”, “The State I Am In”, “Yella”) comes “Barbara”, a film starring Nina Hoss (“The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma”, “We Are the Night”, “Yella”), Ronald Zehrfeld (“The Red Cockatoo”, “In the Jungle”) and “Rainer Bock” (“Inglourious Basterds”, “Unknown”, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”, “War Horse”).

The film earned Christian Petzold a “Silver Bear for Best Director” at the 62nd Berlin Film Festival and now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Adopt Films.

The film is set in 1980 and revolves around physician Barbara (portrayed by Nina Hoss), a physician transferred to a small hospital in the Baltic Sea as punishment for filing an “Ausreiseantrag” for wishing to leave the German Democratic Republic (GDR – East Germany).

Once a physician that was employed by the prestigious Charite in East Berlin, she lives alone in an apartment and often has her room searched (including body cavity searches) by a team led by Stasi Officer Klaus Schutz (portrayed by Rainer Bock).  She is often given dirty looks by others that known that she tried to leave the GDR.

For now, she works at a pediatric hospital led by chief physician Andre Reiser (portrayed by Dr. Andre Reiser) and is ordered by the Stasi (secret police) to get close to Barbara and get intelligence on her.

Meanwhile, Barbara is secretly hiding money near her home and being assisted by her lover Jorg (portrayed by Mark Waschke) from West Germany, planning on her escape to Denmark.

But as she continues to work at the hospital, she meets a runaway named Stella (portrayed by Jasna Fritzi Bauer) who Reiser and others tend to think she is a troublemaker trying to use their facilities and avoid time at the youth detention center but when Barbara takes a look at her, she realizes that she has meningitis, to the shock of Reiser (who notices what good Barbara brings to the patients at the hospital).  As Barbara spends more time with Stella, she learns that Stella is pregnant and wants to raise her child in West Germany than work hard labor for the youth detention center.

Despite her cold demeanor, Andre begins to respect Barbara as a colleague and he becomes smitten with her.

Meanwhile, another patient comes in, a boy who tried to commit suicide who has problems remembering the day and Andre feels that he may need to do surgery on him but the only person that has the skills to do the anesthetics is Barbara.

But as Barbara is planning to make her escape, will she choose her freedom or will she help her patients?


“Barbara” is presented in 1080 High Definition (16:9).  “Barbara” looks very good in HD.  The film features a lot of grain but contrast is very good.  Color is natural and well-saturated.    I didn’t notice any major problems with picture quality during my viewing of the film.


“Barbara” is presented in German Dolby Digital 2.0 with English subtitles.  While the Indigo Blu-ray release in Germany feature a German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, the Adopt Films release is only in Dolby Digital 2.0 with English subtitles.

For the most part, the film is dialogue driven and there are a few moments featuring a musical score but this is a front-channel driven soundtrack with easy to read subtitles and dialogue is crystal clear.


“Barbara” comes with no special features.  Unfortunately, none of the “making of” features from the Indigo Blu-ray release are included with the Adopt Films Blu-ray release.

For those who lived during the time of two Germany’s, one can remember a time when many educated people would leave East Germany and so to prevent that from happening, the Berlin Wall was made to prevent any escape of its people to West Germany.

Many people were killed by trying to escape and despite the GDR claiming the wall was to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state.

The fact is that the GDR did not want any of their smart and intelligent people leaving their country or anyone else as East German border guards had shoot-to-kill orders anyone trying to flee to West Germany.

With Christian Petzold’s film “Barbara”, viewers get a chance to see a film about what happened to one talented physician from a prestigious hospital who was punished because of her attempt to leave the GDR.

Always being watched by the Stasi and subject to room and body cavity searches, she is often looked at negatively by the local people who know of what she had done.

Actress Nina Hoss does a magnificent job of playing the protagonist Barbara.  A woman who knows her medicine but doesn’t want to get close to anyone because of her mistrust towards them, as she knows they could be spying on her as well.

In fact, her boss, chief physician Andre Reiser is ordered to get close to her but is unable to.  It’s when he shows genuine interest in the patients that Barbara starts to feel that he is a goodhearted man.

And Reiser sees the same for Barbara, a woman who cares about her patients.  She just doesn’t want to live in East Germany and thus the problems that she must face quite often because of her wanting to leave and the Stasi doing all they can to make sure she has no chance of escaping to West Germany and how far they will go to keep her.

But it’s that difficult decision of placing one’s freedom versus one’s dedication to helping her patients is the conundrum that Barbara must face.

Hoss manages to capture the coldness of Barbara’s character but also to capture that glimmer of hope that she feels about leaving the country, but also the compassion she has towards her patients.

Filmmaker Christian Petzold also manages to capture the oppressive GDR in his film but also an intelligent, slow moving story that culminates with an ultimate decision made at the end by Barbara.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is colorful and there is a good amount of grain featured throughout the film.  Good use of medium to long shots to showcase Barbara on her daily bicycle routine but also great use of lighting and beautiful cinematography courtesy of Petzold’s cineatographyer, Hans Fromm.

Unfortunately, the Adopt Films Blu-ray release does not carry over the lossless 5.1 soundtrack or special features of its German Blu-ray counterpart.

Overall, “Barbara” is a film that conveys a sense of desperation of one woman wanting to escape the oppressive GDR but also wanting to maintain that dedication to her patients as a physician.  Featuring a wonderful performance by actress Nina Hoss, “Barbara” is an intelligent, slow-moving film that I definitely recommend!

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